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2004 Marathon Report

April 15, 2004

U.S. Marathon Demographic Snapshot

With the Flora London and Boston Marathons this weekend and the spring marathon season in full stride, it is time again for USATF Road Running Information Center's annual marathon report.

Monday's 108th Boston Marathon illustrates how much marathon demographics have evolved since the 1970s Running Boom era. In 1975, female finishers were only 1.5% of the field (28 of 1,846 overall finishers). The female percentage continued to increase impressively to 11.7% in 1985, 35% in 2000 and 37% in 2003 as the absolute finisher totals grew respectively (3,930, 15,668 and 17,030). Boston has also experienced a gradual increase in the age of marathoners, although its very large masters pool (53% - up from 48% in 2000) is affected by the qualifying entry process.

A more general look at all 2003 marathons that provided results to USATF RRIC shows consistency over the last 6 years (see charts below). The median age for marathon finishers (39 for men, 34 for women) has not changed since 1998 and the overall median age has only increased by 1 year to 38. Also, the percent of women (40%), masters (43%) and juniors (2%) has not varied by more than one percentage point. Younger women are still the majority of runners under-30 (55%) while men comprise 69% of the masters group (40 and over).

Of course from city-to-city and year-to-year, marathon fields vary more significantly. The 2000 New York City Marathon, for example, had the lowest percent of female finishers (28.4) of the larger U.S. marathons tracked that year but in the 2003 ING-sponsored edition, 34% of the finishers were women. Another large marathon with significant increases in female participation was Honolulu which increased from 42% in 2000 to 48% in 2003. The highest female percent for both 2000 and 2003 occurred at Portland with 58% and 57% respectively. The large marathon with the smallest percent of masters was LaSalle Bank Chicago (33% both years) and the largest number of juniors (19 and under) can be found at the City of Los Angeles Marathon (8.5% in 2000 and 11% in 2003) which has the successful "Students Run L.A." training program.

As the Median Times chart below illustrates, marathoners were a little faster in 2003 (4:19:52 for men, 4:52:55 for women) compared to 2002, but still significantly slower than in the 1980s and 90s. The data also shows that there is a much bigger difference between men and women's times than between older and younger runners. An average male masters runner could expect to run about 7 minutes slower than an under-30 male, whereas the typical female masters runner might run 15 minutes slower than her under-30 counterpart.

Demographic Breakdown 1980-2003

1980 1995 1998 1999 2000 2002 2003
Women 10.5% 26% 34% 36% 38% 40% 40%
Masters 26% 41% 40% 42% 44% 43% 43%
Juniors 5% 2% 1% 1% 2% 2% 2%

Media Times

1980 1995 2002 2003
Males 3:32:17 3:54:00 4:20:01 4:19:52
Females 4:03:39 4:15:00 4:56:46 4:52:55

Media Age

1980 1995 1998 2000 2002 2003
Males 34 38 38 38 39 39
Females 31 35 34 35 34 35
Median Age Overall n/a n/a 37 37 37 38

U.S. Marathon Count, Estimates, Growth Rate and Largest Marathons

Since the USATF Road Running Information Center began compiling running data in 1987, we are often asked: "How many marathons are there in the U.S.?" Currently, with the widespread use of the Internet for running calendars and a reasonable stability for most events of the distance, we are much closer to having a complete list of marathons. As a start, there were 348 different U.S. marathons included in the RRIC database and/or found on the top 10 online calendar sites over a 12 month period. If you add an estimated 25 events that are more local and not on a national or regional radar, a reasonable minimum estimate is 375 U.S. marathons.

Another way to approach the marathon count is to examine the certified course list. There was a time in the mid-1990s when the total number of U.S. certified marathon courses was around 650. Now some courses have expired (after a 10 year life) and the current total as of March 7, 2004 was 444 "active" marathon courses. On closer examination, approximately 114 of those were duplicates. Then remove another 15 which are probably no longer used such as "1996 Olympic Marathon" and the canceled "DC Marathon." After adding an estimated 55 for uncertified courses, trail marathons and courses used more than once a year, we get the same estimate of 375.

Due to this revision of event numbers, the historical estimated finisher totals have also been revised as follows:

Year Estimated U.S. Marathon
Finisher Total
1976 25,000
1980 120,000
1990 236,000
1995 312,000
1996 340,000
1997 340,000
1998 360,000
1999 374,000
2000 389,000
2001 366,000
2002 388,000
2003 400,000

In the U.S., marathons in 2003 grew by 3% compared to 2002, while outside the U.S., there was another year of solid growth with a 4.9% increase for the same 62 marathons (301,747 finishers in 2002 vs. 316,470 in 2003).

For the first time in history, four marathons - New York City, Chicago, London and Berlin - reported over 30,000 finishers in the same year (2003). The 2003 ING New York City Marathon supplanted the Flora London Marathon as the world's largest with a race record 34,729 finishers and #2 all-time ranking (only the 100th Boston Marathon in 1996 with 35,868 finishers is larger), while the LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon continued its growth spurt as it also jumped over London for the #2 world-wide position in 2003 with 32,362 finishers. Like 2002, the U.S. again had 7 of the 15 largest marathons in the world.

For largest marathon lists, see the below.

2003 World's Largest Marathons (finishers):

1 ING New York City, NY 34,729
2 LaSalle Bank Chicago, IL 32,362
3 Flora London, GBR 32,174
4 real Berlin, GER 30,709
5 Paris, FRA 28,991
6 Honolulu, HI 22,139
7 City of Los Angeles, CA 17,097
8 Boston, MA 17,030
9 Suzuki Rock 'n' Roll, CA 16,798
10 Chosun Ilbo Chunchon, KOR 16,276
11 Marine Corps, DC 15,973
12 Olympus Hamburg, GER 15,588
13 Ford Cologne, GER 14,652
14 Stockholm, SWE 12,076
15 Naha, JPN 11,442

2003 U.S. Largest Marathons (finishers):

1 ING New York City, NY 34,729
2 LaSalle Bank Chicago, IL 32,362
3 Honolulu, HI 22,139
4 City of Los Angeles, CA 17,097
5 Boston, MA 17,030
6 Suzuki Rock 'n' Roll, CA 16,798
7 Marine Corps, DC 15,973
8 Walt Disney World, FL 9,422
9 Twin Cities, MN 7,085
10 Portland, OR 7,016
11 Grandma's, MN 6,868
12 hp houston, TX 5,735
13 Philadelphia, PA 5,354
14 Motorola Austin, TX 5,315
15 St. George, UT 4,437

Source: USA Track & Field Road Running Information Center

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